A Taste of Ohio History

Nunley, Debbie and Karen Jane Elliott. A Taste of Ohio History: A Guide to Historic Eateries and Their Recipes.  Winston-Salem, North Carolina; John F. Blair, 2001.

Combining travel, architecture, and food, A Taste of Ohio History, is the second state in a unique series.  The authors have compiled a list of almost 100 historic eateries in the Buckeye state.  The restaurants fall into two categories: 1) Historic venues that have been around forever (forever being at least a hundred years), and 2) New venues that have opened in an old space.  And on top of that, they have thrown in some recipes. (Usually two or three per institution.)  Not quite a foodie book and not quite a guide to historic architecture.  Some crazy adventure in-between.

I like this idea because it is different, but familiar.  I do not believe there is a historic restaurant association, but there could be.  The authors go one step further by classifying the historic eateries: main street (the place, not the idea), former mills, transportation [several train depots], taverns, cabins, and more.  These classifications conveniently show up as chapters.

I don’t see a reader going through the full text in one siting, but the short articles for each eatery is efficiently put together.  In less than five hundred words, Nunley and Elliot are able to give a history of the building and its surroundings, an overview of the food served, and a history of the current ownership.  Hence, history, architecture and food.  This is not brain surgery, but each article is lively and has been well researched.  Though each review covers the same basic material, no review sounds alike.

The authors’ base is Pennsylvania, which is the subject of their first publication.  After A Taste of Ohio History, they published a guide to Maryland and Virginia.  For obvious reasons, I cannot recommend the other titles, but if you are ever heading east…


Island Heritage

Ligibel, Ted and Richard Wrights. Island Heritage: A Guided Tour to Lake Erie’s Bass Island. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1987.

In my ongoing quest to find books on the Lake Erie Islands, Island Heritage is a worthwhile relic. It is dated now, but still worth a look to history/architecture seekers.

Ligibel and Wright obtained a preservation grant to document the history and architecture of Bass Island and its shipping industry. The end result is this guided tour of the Bass Islands (South, Middle, North and Gibraltar). Not a tourism board pamphlet, Island Heritage was published by Ohio State University Press, and was a byproduct of 6+ years of research.

The eight guided tours are almost exclusively looking at the architecture on the islands. It surprised me to find the number of structures on each island dating before 1880. The descriptions of each structure are full of early Bass Islands history, focused heavily on the early vintners and wineries. Continue reading

Building Ohio

Ware, Jane. Building Ohio: A Traveler’s Guide to Ohio’s Rural Architecture. Wilmington, Ohio; Orange Frazer Press, 2002.

I have a rule of thumb about towns in Ohio. If the municipality had 10,000 residents in 1950, there will be a few amazing streets of Victorian houses near the town square. I call it the “10,000 Residents in 1950” rule. In reading over Jane Ware’s Building Ohio, I have another rule. If a city is the county seat, the courthouse will be distinctly located downtown, facing the square and making the place look nice(r). It is a little thing, but in seeing many government buildings (centers of our civilization) look like large sheds, the prominent old courthouse is something that makes Ohio and much of the Midwest desirable.

The rural volume is Building Ohio, goes along with an earlier architectural guidebook for the 8 largest cities in the state (the Urban guide). While there are some rural structures discussed, this guide focuses mostly on the small town and some slightly larger cities (Springfield, Hamilton, Mansfield, and Lima). The rural guide is unique in that I have not found anything to compare it to. Together with the urban guide, they are an unbeatable team.

Ware is good writer who has made a guide as opposed to a reference book. Continue reading

Suburban Steel

Knerr, Douglas. Suburban Steel: The Magnificent Failure of the Lustron Corporation, 1945-1951. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2004.

The future of housing could have been centered in Ohio. For a brief period between 1947 and 1951, a public-private cooperation in building steel enameled houses for working and middle classes existed in the incorporation of Lustron. As almost all of the funding came from the public sector, the whole enterprise was highly contentious and the ‘socialism’ word was thrown around. Douglas Knerr tells the political story of Lustron in Suburban Steel.

Suburban Steel was originally a dissertation and, not unsurprisingly, it reads very much like a dissertation for the first two chapters, which mainly cover the background for the need for Lustron. Knerr follows threads of the brief history of prefabricated homes, the federal governments previous involvement in housing, and finally, the housing ‘crisis’ of early post-war years. All very academic, and if you are researching on of these topics, I would definitely recommend checking out the notes for the first couple chapters.

Luckily, for the casual reader like myself, Suburban Steel reads much more like a narrative of the rise and fall of the Lustron Corporation from Chapter 3 point onward. Continue reading

No Place Like Home: A History of Domestic Architecture in Springfield & Clark County, Ohio

Berkhofer, George H. No Place Like Home: A History of Domestic Architecture in Springfield & Clark County, Ohio. Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press, 2007.

I am always looking for titles about Springfield and I was especially eager to get my hands on No Place Like Home because I knew there would be much on South Fountain Street. South Fountain Street Historic District is just off of downtown Springfield and I would say it has one of the best assortment of late Nineteenth Century Victorian homes in Ohio.

Berkhofer has been able to put together a coffee table book that is very readable. The book was not quite what I expected. He goes into more than enough detail about the background and national/international players behind each style up until the early 20th Century. This book would work as an excellent introduction to historic domestic architecture in America, sans a few regional styles outside of Ohio. It is not A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester (the benchmark in the field), but it is also not designed to be a reference guide.

Let me assure you that South Fountain Street is well documented in this book along with other notable districts like East High Street. As you pass through time chronologically you start to see when and how the city took shape. For those familiar with Springfield and environs, Berkhofer has a welcome knack for detailing the history of specific homes and architects. Many of these homes are still standing today. This information is not always easy to come by and it is nice to have it in an indexed book.

The images are in black and white or sepia. While more color would be nice, there is a quiet dignity to photographs of old homes in black and white. And, do not get me wrong, the photographs and graphics are excellent in No Place Like Home. Enough so, that I would have purchased this title without the architectural history included. Though, I should reiterate that I am always looking for books about Springfield.

Now if I could only find a good book on the architecture of downtown Springfield.

South Fountain Historic District

Clark County Historical Society